If you’ve only seen Jack O’Lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus olearius) during the day you may have thought they were named for their orange pumpkin-like color.
Instead they are aptly named because they glow green in the dark, as shown in the top photo.
Perhaps, like Armillaria mushrooms, Omphalotus olearius is bioluminescent because of the chemical reaction they use to consume decaying wood. Armillaria‘s chemical reaction glow is described in this vintage article on foxfire.
Bees of all kinds are attracted to deep purple asters beside the Westinghouse Memorial pond in Schenley Park. The honeybee, above, is hard to see near the flower’s orange center.
At Duck Hollow, yellow jewelweed still has flowers as well as fat seed pods. Try to pull one of the pods from the stem and see what happens.
On 28 September I explored the slag heap flats near Swisshelm Park where (I think) solar arrays will be installed. Because the slag is porous the flats are a dry grass/scrub land where this shrub would have done well except that it’s been over-browsed by too many deer. It looks like bonsai.
Deer overpopulation is also evident by the browse line at the edge of the flats.
On 26 September at Duck Hollow I encountered an optical illusion where Nine Mile Run empties into the Monongahela River. It looks as if this downed, waterlogged tree is damming the creek and that the water is lower on the downriver side of it. This illusion seems to be caused by the smooth water surface on one side of the log.
We found a tiny red centipede crossing the trail at Frick Park on 30 September …
… and a puffball mushroom outside the Dog Park.
On 27 September hundreds, if not thousands, of crows gathered at dusk near Neville Street in Shadyside before flying to the roost. I thought this would happen again the next day but they changed their plan and have not come this close again.
Sometimes sunrise is the most beautiful part of the day.
These photos don’t give the impression that it’s been abnormally dry, but precipitation in Pittsburgh is down 6″ for the year. Almost 2″ of that deficit occurred in September. The Fall Color Prediction says our leaf color-change is later than usual.
In September birders lurk near devil’s walking stick in Frick Park because the plants attract birds on migration. Crawling with tiny insects and full of fruit, devil’s walking stick is often swarmed with visiting warblers, cedar waxwings and robins. But is it really devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa)? Or is it the invasive look-alike Japanese angelica (Aralia elata)? Or even worse, is it a hybrid?
Anne Swaim responded to Dave’s post saying “Probably Aralia elata, the Japanese Angelica. Great bird attractant (but really invasive.) Same genus as the native Devil’s walking stick.”
Native to eastern Russia, China, Korea and Japan, Japanese angelica (Aralia elata) was brought to the U.S. as an ornamental plant. It’s well known in eastern Pennsylvania and New York state because those areas are outside Aralia spinosa‘s native range. Pittsburgh is on the border though, so I always assumed I was looking at the native plant.
It’s so hard to tell them apart that New York Botanical Garden posted this guide to invasive look-alikes. Here’s a screenshot from the Aralia sp pages:
Their Quick ID is helpful for non-botanists like me.
Quick ID of Aralia elata (invasive alien):
Leaf veins: Main lateral veins running all the way to the tips of teeth at the leaf margin.
Inflorescence: Inflorescence shorter, typically 30–60 cm long, and WITHOUT a distinct central axis (often wider than long, with base usually surrounded by and even overtopped by foliage).
Quick ID of Aralia spinosa (native):
Leaf veins: Main lateral veins branching and diminishing in size before reaching the leaf margin (smaller branching veins may run to the tips of teeth)
Inflorescence: Inflorescence longer, often 1–1.2 m long, WITH a distinct central axis (typically longer than wide, base usually elevated above foliage).
Have you seen white fluff blowing in the wind lately? The fluff is not from dandelions. At this time of year it’s from pilewort.
Pilewort (Erechtites hieraciifolius) is a native plant in the Aster family that looks very weedy, even ugly. At two to eight feet tall the flower heads on the tips of the branches look like seed pods because they barely open to expose pistils and stamens. To appreciate the flower you need a magnifying glass. Its beauty is microscopic.
It doesn’t take much wind to set it going. Do you see the flying fluff in this closeup? Look for the tiny yellow arrow in this photo and the one at top.
Why is it called pilewort? The common name literally means “hemorrhoid plant.” Penn State Extension explains.
Native Americans used American burnweed [pilewort] to treat rashes caused by exposure to poison ivy and poison sumac. Medicinally, it has also been used as an emetic and to treat dysentery, eczema, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids. It has been used to create a blue dye for wool and cotton and, despite its intense flavor, can be eaten raw or cooked.
Pileweed’s other common name is American burnweed because it grows easily after brush fires. It loves disturbed soil and is easy to find by the side of the road, in churned up gardens, and in urban areas. In this age of bulldozers, roto-tillers and garden digging, pilewort has many opportunities to germinate.
Purple milkwort (Polygala sanguinea), above, is native to North America. “The genus name Polygala comes from the ancient Greek “much milk”, as the plant was thought to increase milk yields in cattle.” I have no idea if this works.
Pilewort (Erechtites hieraciifolius) is a member of the Aster family that grows easily in disturbed soil. Quirky Science says the “reported uses include the treating of hemorrhage, dysentery, skin diseases, and cholera. It is a purgative and emetic. The name suggests it is good in treating piles (hemorrhoids).”
St. Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum), imported from Europe, is so-named because it blooms in June and was traditionally harvested on St. John’s Day, June 24, to adorn homes and ward off evil. It is an herbal treatment for depression and has been planted nearly worldwide.
Turtleheads and late boneset flowers at Schenley Park. Do you see the honeybee?
A rainbow with crows over Oakland.
Fiery sunset on 7 September.
Six deer in Schenley Park — only 5 made it into the photo.
But there’s a photo of deer I wish I’d been able to take: Friday morning 8 September along 5th Ave between the Cathedral of Learning and Clapp Hall I saw 3 deer — 2 does and 1 fawn — standing on the pavement at Clapp Hall. They were close to the curb of 5th Ave at Tennyson as they tried to figure out how to cross 5th Ave during rush hour.
Here’s a pretty plant, an invasive alien, that I’ve not seen in Pittsburgh but is easy to find in Lancaster County, PA where I took this picture.
Beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens) is a member of the mint family native to Southeast Asia and the Indian highlands and is grown as a crop for Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisine. Its common names include shiso and Korean perilla. The “beefsteak” name was coined because the darkest varieties have leaves as red as meat. The wild plants I saw in Lancaster County had green leaves and dark red stems.
Perilla frutescens is widely cultivated in Asia as an edible plant but it has downsides including contact dermatitis from touching the leaves and anaphylaxis after consuming a large amount of seeds. Those who cultivate it know what to do but the rest of us should be cautious.
Brought to the U.S. as an ornamental beefsteak plant escaped to the wild and is now invasive in six states from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. The plant is always toxic to cattle, horses and other ruminants including white-tailed deer.
Since deer don’t eat it, it may have been touted as a “deer resistant” plant at the nursery but don’t buy it! This plant spreads way too easily.
(credits are in the captions with links where applicable)
Yesterday turned into a nice day, but when eight of us met at Schenley Park at 8:30am the temperature was cool with low clouds and the sky was blank gray. Normally the birds would have slept in but the migrants were hungry. We found 22 species.
Best Bird is hard to choose. Was it the belted kingfisher that hunted over Panther Hollow Lake? The ruby-throated hummingbirds that floated among the trees? Or the warblers — Blackburnian, magnolia and chestnut-sided?
Between birds the bugs took center stage. Milkweed bugs swarmed on swamp milkweed pods …
Someone in my neighborhood planted common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) on the strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. This month it droops over the sidewalk, so tall that I barely have to duck to take this closeup of yellow with a golden cast. Did you know this food plant is native to the Americas?
This woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus), in a sunnier shade of yellow, was identified on the Botanical Society walk last Sunday at the Nine Mile Run Trail. The side of the flower is displayed because the bracts on the back and the bud are important. Click on the image to see a front view of the flower.
This very yellow “pale jewelweed” (Impatiens pallida) is a rarity in Schenley Park. Deer have eaten all the other jewelweed yet this patch thrives. Why? The clue is in middle of this ugly photo.
Do you see the prickly branch of wineberry draped over the jewelweed plant? The entire patch is protected by this invasive thorny plant. The deer cannot approach. (Wineberry stems are circled in purple below.)
And a Purple Host:
I don’t remember the exact species of tick trefoil seen on the Botanical Society walk but a butterfly confirmed the plant is thriving.
Tick trefoil is the host plant for the silver spotted skipper. This one was sipping on an wet abandoned shirt nearby its host.